Dry July: A good cause and a good time time to reflect on our relationship with alcohol

1 Jul 2020
by Dr Shalini Arunogiri, Deputy Clinical Director, Turning Point

On average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit. As of July 1, Australians will have been living with COVID-19 restrictions for nearly exactly that amount of time; social distancing and ‘lockdown’ measures have been in place nationwide since late March. So, it is unsurprising that we are now accustomed to what we consider our ‘new normal’.

photo of women cheering with alcohol by giovana gomes at unsplash.com

This includes the changes we’ve intentionally decided to embrace – such as taking the opportunity to get fit, discover a hobby, or find new ways to connect with friends or family. At the same time, there may be several behaviours or routines we have developed in response to the lockdown that we haven’t had a chance to reflect on. For instance, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that as a nation, in April-May, the majority of us were spending much more time on our screens, and one in five people reported an increase in their consumption of junk food. For 14 percent of Australians, alcohol use had also gone up.

Alcohol often has a central role in Australian society, part of how we play and relax, how we connect with friends and family. On the other hand, it can be detrimental to our physical and mental health. It is the sixth leading cause of disease burden in Australia, implicated in over 30 diseases, including eight types of cancer. Although drinking can be a common way of coping with stress, difficulties sleeping, or dealing with mental health problems like depression or anxiety, as it starts to become a habit, alcohol use can itself become the problem. 

As we exit COVID-19 restrictions, at this two-month mark, we have an opportunity to take a pause and reflect on the unexamined behaviours that make up our ‘new normal’, including the role alcohol now plays in our lives. What is your new relationship with alcohol? Every year, ‘Dry July’ provides a chance to take a month off drinking for a good cause, fundraising for cancer whilst also looking after your own health. This year, this chance is worth considering, as it is more important than ever to prioritise our mental and physical health. 

For some of us, cutting back or stopping can be difficult. We have a few tips on how to do this effectively, and if you’re struggling, our experienced counsellors and our telephone and online teams are ready to help.